More on our parenting philosophy

The Frugalwoods posted this post about how they put any learning off until the kid wants it.

Our philosophy is exactly the opposite. Introduce stuff super early and don’t stress about it. Yes it takes longer and there are more mistakes, but there’s no pressure. Plus the ability to understand that mistakes are part of learning is a really important skill.

We’ve done this with everything from potty training to reading to math to money.  Maybe not music which we started at ages 6 and 5 respectively.  And not organized sports which we didn’t start at all.  There’s only so much effort fundamentally lazy parents can make.

The thought of having to deal with poo on bottoms until age 3 is horrifying to me.  I think also with potty training, the Frugalwoods don’t realize that kids have to learn to wear a diaper.  They don’t come hard-wired with the desire to soil themselves.  That’s also a training thing, just in our society (as with many societies) we find it convenient to capture it rather than us learning to read their signals or training them to micturate to a signal (which are other common methods of dealing with non-mobile babies needing to potty).  So… actually they did teach the kid very early on.  If they were really into waiting for kids’ interests, they would be using the understand the baby’s signals version of pottying and diapers would never have been involved in the first place, since the kids never indicated an interest in them.

But I digress.

Money is a construct.  Kids don’t know what money is unless you let them know.  They can’t show interest in it until they’ve been exposed to it enough to know it exists.  And exposure is a form of learning.

Reading to your kids is teaching them to read.  You can increase its effectiveness by putting your fingers under the words you’re reading as you read them.  With a small child in your lap, this is a fun bonding activity.  Our kids also loved the leapfrog videos that had songs about the sounds the letters made and could sing them long before they could mentally do phonics.  Once that clicked, they were able to start reading.

There’s something joyous in learning, especially with young kids.  There’s so much they don’t know and will never know unless they are introduced to it.  You don’t have to force kids to learn things, but you do have to introduce the concepts.  With potty training that means introducing potties and having diaper-free time so they make the connection about using the restroom.  With reading that means reading and helping them connect the sounds to the words.  With math that means counting and adding.  With money that means involving them in the process and teaching about dollars and cents (and eventually providing an allowance).

I’m sure the Frugalwoods kids will be fine.  DC1 is taking psychology this semester and they’re on the chapter about how much parents have to do with children’s successes or failures, and if a parent is not abusive or super neglectful (and also controlling for $$ resources, which do have a lot to do with “success”), the answer is not much.  DC1 informed us we were good parents.  But the bar to good parenting is pretty low.  (DC1 also claimed to never have been a broody, resentful teenager… it seems like only DH and I remember that short phase.  DC2 claims not to.)

I do not have a discussion question for Grumpy Nation.

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 35 Comments »

35 Responses to “More on our parenting philosophy”

  1. Coree Says:

    This is really interesting. We potty trained slightly early, because I would rather deal with the occasional wee accident than washing cloth diaper, and were probably too ambitious on the pedal versus balance bike. But we’ve largely been guided by his interest in things (and frankly, sometimes wait for nursery to teach him). He’s pretty resistant to anything that looks like formal learning – my friends’ 4 year olds will do worksheets and my son will definitely not. I’ve been known to set a toddler trap – leaving out art supplies, the abacus, letter blocks, when I thought he was ready to learn something.
    I feel like every time I express a concern about my child doing something (making friends, wanting to draw or write, learning his letters), a week later he’s done it. This is a good reminder to myself to chill out, he loves to be read to, he’ll want to read himself soon.

  2. Jen Says:

    I’m so glad daycare potty trained both of my girls!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Probably before they indicated their own interest. Likely they encouraged them to develop interest.

    • omdg Says:

      My daycare did this too! I think they just took the kids on a schedule and daughter figured it out for herself. I was in my first year of residency so I had basically no role in this. One day we got a note from them saying we didn’t have to send her in a diaper anymore. She was dry at night since a really young age though — maybe 2? Man I loved that daycare!

  3. Turia Says:

    My own lagging skills as a parent meant that I knew it would be a disaster to engage in a battle over potty training with a toddler who informed me, “I’m going to use the potty when I’m bigger. Like an adult bigger.” So yes, one of mine was in diapers until close to three, and then, basically overnight, wasn’t, and there were almost no accidents or messes to clean up, and our relationship stayed intact. The other one wanted to do things earlier and much more piecemeal but that also worked with relatively little fuss and mess.

    I did not grow up in a house where mistakes were encouraged and failure was seen as a learning experience and I have a fixed mindset and perfectionism in spades. I am working very very hard to model something different with my own kids, and often this means that I have to be careful about how I introduce something because I will become the problem. The younger one has reaped the benefits of me realizing with the older one how damaging my (unintentional) pressure can be (see: transition from balance to pedal bike).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s not a battle when you introduce things early because you can drop them if it becomes one.

      You *had* a fixed mindset but are currently working on a growth mindset!

      Also I don’t know that a little pressure is necessarily damaging— there’s a lot of benefit from struggling and then succeeding. You get much less of that when you start early and go slow.

  4. CG Says:

    Huh. I think we’re inconsistent on this. We introduced some things very early (sports, music, reading, math, bike-riding) and others not (potty-training was probably around average; we did use diapers until they were about 2.5 and then got rid of them over the course of a weekend, as far as I recall). The enthusiasm/amount of uptake on all of those things really varied by kid. We definitely had some meltdowns on the soccer field, but we also now have kids who are pretty good at some of the things they do because they started early. DH and I have a disagreement about the money stuff. I grew up with an allowance from a young age; he did not, and he’s adamant about not wanting our kids to have one for reasons I don’t totally understand. Oldest has a credit card and uses it to go out to lunch with friends sometimes and pay for haircuts. We did sit the kids down this year and show them our 2021 expenses so they would understand what it takes to run our household the way we do. And then, hopefully, think about what jobs they might want to have that would let them continue that lifestyle.

    But I think the overall point about parenting only being so influential is hugely important. Our kids are so different from one another. They are going to be who they’re going to be.

    • Natka Says:

      @GC:
      I very much like your inconsistent approach. It makes total sense that some things are introduced early and other things are best put on hold until the kids are ready. And it makes sense that the uptake and success of eithe philosophy would very much depend on a particular kid.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re starting to think about getting DC one a credit card, but probably not for another year. (Right now zie can’t drive yet so…)

      • CG Says:

        We live in a very walkable/bikeable city so he has been out and about doing his own thing since about 6th grade–one of the things I love about where we live. It became convenient for us to give him a way to pay for stuff besides cash!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        All we can walk to is the local Catholic Church! And I guess the town water plant.

  5. Natka Says:

    Thank you for a thought-provoking and interesting topic!

    These are not mutually exclusive philosophies :) Also, a lot probably depends on a kid. And parental interests and priorities.

    For example.
    I have 0 interest in teaching kids about money (because I am lazy, not because I have anything against the subject). Therefore, they are the ones driving this particular bus – they are asking questions and I am here to help, support, suggest ways to earn money, etc, etc. So, I guess I was waiting until kids were ready and wanted to learn.

    On the other hand…
    I love, love, love books. I love reading to my kids. So it kind of naturally happened that I was reading to them a lot. This was possible, in part, because my kids have the types of personalities that they were willing to sit and listen. So in this case, I guess I was introducing kids to reading very early (both because I loved reading and because I thought reading to kids was important whether or not they showed interest in books).

    Btw, I attempted teaching 2 older kids how to read and failed. This was probably a combination of me being terrible at teaching and them not being quite ready to read independently. They all learned how to read in Kindergarten and all 3 love reading. I still read to any kid who is willing to listen.

    • Coree Says:

      I love, love, love reading to children. I do great voices! I used to read poetry to my infant son when he wouldn’t sleep. He spoke in paragraphs at 2 which I attribute to all that early exposure to language :) But equally, I don’t feel super equipped to teach him how to read in a structured fashion. So we do lots of rhyming and word games (all the silly words that start with a mmm sound).

      We really haven’t thought about music yet, mostly because I don’t like the idea of overloading our weekend. But my son has a lovely singing voice and can name a tune from a few notes, so maybe we should. We do swimming, but really like having the freedom for brunch, lots of lego, and wanders in the woods. So hopefully they do something at school. Nursery is doing Scottish country dancing at the moment, so I’m looking forward to seeing 4 year olds dance :)

      • CG Says:

        Oh yeah, we thought we were being so clever about exposing our kids to the water and giving them swimming lessons very early and it was an epic fail. We have spent literally thousands of dollars on private swimming lessons to get them all to be safe in the water and the youngest (9) is still not where I’d like her to be (the pandemic interrupted her progress a lot, to be fair). I barely remember not knowing how to swim and spent basically my entire summers underwater as a kid, but my kids had a terrible time being comfortable with their faces in the water. That whole experience taught me some parenting humility, for sure.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That’s really a safety thing— being safe in the water is a life saving skill. Whether or not they do a perfect crawl.

  6. Mike Nitabach Says:

    My parents didn’t do jack shit to teach me jack shit bcs they weren’t capable of giving a shit & it sucked shit. Everyone’s kids who are discussing their philosophies in these comments are really fortunate & are gonna have a huge leg up regardless of the finer distinctions. You all sound like great parents!

  7. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    “DC1 is taking psychology this semester and they’re on the chapter about how much parents have to do with children’s successes or failures, and if a parent is not abusive or super neglectful (and also controlling for $$ resources, which do have a lot to do with “success”), the answer is not much.”

    I feel like I need to see that chapter to help reinforce this message repeatedly. I am working on developing my own growth mindset!

    We try to introduce things for JB for the same reasons as you. I want them at least exposed to the idea of things even if they don’t want to pursue it yet.

    We don’t give them an allowance or money because I still can’t figure out how to make that work, and I hate that part, but I do talk about our whys and hows about money all the time. They know that we make and save enough that when people are in need, we help them. They know that we have to be mindful of what we spend our money on, in the abstract, but they aren’t anywhere near ready to make good decisions yet and that’s why I hate we don’t yet give JB money to work with. I want them to practice and make mistakes.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We give our kids a really small allowance. It’s 20 cents per year of age. (So DC2 age 9 gets $1.80 and DC1 age 15 gets $3.) It has been really good for teaching about coins and the value of coins when they were little. And it’s about enough to buy the amount of candy that one would healthily eat in a week given their size, though unlike me, my kids haven’t really used it for that purpose. They’re more savers + buy larger items later. The biggest benefit that the response to the gimmies is, “you have your own money, you can buy X if you want to.” (Also we can say, “you can put that on your amazon list and someone will get it for you for X-mas/birthday.)

      It is only for luxuries, not for clothing or anything like that. And it is way lower than what their friends get. It seems to have been mostly spent on stuffed animals and more recently, fancy playing cards and magic tricks. (They also sometimes get money as presents.)

    • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

      We do a very similar allowance but we have a spend/save/give division (the save/give doesn’t come out of the small amount per year of age) and then they collectively decide where to donate their tzedakah money. I want them to have to save up for things! My kid wanted a nicer set of earbuds so he offered he could save up maybe half and I could pitch in the other half (they were $20) and it was a great lesson in deferred gratification.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        What amounts do you do, and what’s the division? The spend/save/give thing is important to me to teach.

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        So my kids are 13, 10, and 7. The 13 and 10 year olds get $2 a week to spend, $1 a week to save, and usually 50 cents goes in the tzedakah box. I forget what the 7 year old gets, I wrote it down on a sheet. Maybe $1.50 on the spend? Enough they can save up for big ticket stuff, but not so much that it’s always easy. The big kid also earns a little money cat sitting for a friend.

  8. SP Says:

    I mean, parents are typically wiping butts past age 3 anyway, but it is a matter of to what degree. For me, little kids potting is annoying generally, and I didn’t have a significantly worse aversion to diapers compared to potty trained. (The environmental argument is there, though!) We introduced early-ish (not elimination communication early tho), but it didn’t stick (maybe we didn’t encourage enough?) and she lost interest, so we reintroduce later and it was mostly fine.

    We haven’t really decided on a philosophy. LO is in preschool and they teach stuff there, and we reinforce at home, mostly to the level of interest. We will likely do various sports or activity (beyond swimming) coming up, just for exposure to things and to new situations. There is a trend in very liberal circles to focus only on play until older ages, but if a kid enjoys learning (most do), I don’t see why we would not encourage.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That trend has been around forever—I can’t remember which philosopher was really into it. Rousseau, I think maybe? It’s especially popular around Berkeley!

      • SP Says:

        Ah, true, I guess it seems more popular now . But more likely, just it is coming on my radar due to what I’m paying attention to! There is the Waldorf thing, which I think is a bit different (no media/reading before age 7?), but also forest schools and play based programs are pretty popular.

  9. xykademiqz Says:

    I can’t follow Frugalwoods. They weird me out along far too many axes. It’s like visiting another planet.

  10. Alice Says:

    I’m not going to look at the Frugalwoods, mostly because I don’t really want to contribute to their way of being. I checked them out a couple of years ago, and that was enough to know that they aren’t for me.

    I look at my role as a mother as being one of introducing, explaining, and teaching. Both in terms of behavior and in terms of knowing about things. So I do set bounds and do say “no” to my kid leading the way on everything. After all, she would live on milk, marshmallows, and chips if it was up to her. Part of being a parent is helping your kid learn to be a functional person in the world, because it would be a lot harder for them to figure it out on their own. Their desires aren’t always the best thing to steer by. But I also do let her set her own path on some things. I think it’s sort of like core classes vs. electives. There are core things where it’s not up to her to display interest– it’s just something that I teach myself or support her learning elsewhere. But going beyond the core level is up to her. And there are electives where it’s up to her if she does them at all after I or someone else has introduced them. (Because how would she know they even existed if someone didn’t introduce them?)

    I honestly think that fully child-led doesn’t really serve the kid, any more than fully parent-dictated does.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s definitely true. I think that’s why I’m like pushing kids in swimming is different than pushing them in most other things. It’s like, you can’t let kids dart across the street.

      But also everything we do is introducing things to kids. Nothing is really 100% child-led. We’re all products of our environment.

  11. First Gen American Says:

    Like Turin, I am recognizing things in myself that I have inadvertently passed down. I talk about money almost too much and now I am having to convince older son that the cheapest college isn’t always the best choice when we have planned for that expense. He should broaden his selection criteria.

    We introduced a lot of foods early too.

    We did not force music (even when most of the whole school plays an instrument) but required the kids to play a sport. Older son did take a music class and HATED IT. They could change sports as much as they wanted til they found one they liked. They both do a spring and fall activity but because they want to. In winter, they ski but do it just for fun even though we do have a good race team. Not many kids get to grow up next door to a mountain so they learned very young and love it. Not doing a winter sport was great for my oldest because now he’s doing quiz club which he really enjoys.

    We also are handy, so the kids help on house projects. They don’t do much but just enough that they learn it’s not rocket science and shouldn’t be intimidated by fixing stuff. For our wide plank floors, they were in charge of making and installing the pegs in the floor, we did the rest. But it’s cool they can see their work in the rooms we did.

    Fun article. I also got the advice from someone about the kid feeling safe and loved as being the most important factors. I think good role models around them help too, so if you and your friends are good people, that will rub off on kids.


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